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TEFL Masterclass – Drama for Natural Speaking Practice

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Walton Burns – Award-winning Materials Writer & Senior Editor @Alphabet Publishing.

Walton is a  materials writer, editor, book designer, and publishing consultant. He has been an EFL and ESL teacher since 2001. He has also been an award-winning materials writer with experience professionally since 2007. He is currently write teacher resource books, textbooks, and lesson plans for ESL schools.

What you will learn

In this workshop, we will discuss how drama, including play scripts and theatre games, can help students improve their spoken communication skills. Too often our classrooms focus on grammatical accuracy and literal definitions of words, while neglecting pragmatics-the social and cultural rules that govern how we speak in different contexts and situations. Plays are a powerful tool for teaching conversation because they are written texts that can be analysed, but are meant to reflect natural spoken speech.

We’ll look at a short skit and analyze how to use it in the classroom to raise awareness of how context, relationships, and goals can change the way we speak.

Next, we’ll look at a series of activities that can help students think about how non-verbal cues like intonation and word stress impact the meaning of our words. Even our grammar choices can reveal different attitudes toward what we are saying.

Finally, we’ll talk about how we choose rhetorical strategies and useful language to perform everyday functions. Get dramatic in the classroom, in a good way!

Workshop Summary

The Role of Drama in Language Learning

Walton Burns introduces the Gallery Teacher’s Masterclass, emphasising the use of drama to enhance English language proficiency with a focus on pragmatics—the unspoken rules of communication that vary across cultures. He highlights the necessity of understanding when to be polite, use humour, apologise, or persuade, and points out that these nuances are often overlooked in traditional language education, which typically prioritises grammar and vocabulary.

Bridging Theory and Practice through Drama

Burns advocates for integrating drama into language learning to bridge the gap between textbook English and real-world communication. Drama, with its scripts designed for spoken language, offers a practical method for students to practise pronunciation, intonation, and the application of pragmatic rules in varied contexts. He suggests that drama provides a safe space for students to experiment with different forms of expression, understand character motivations, and explore the impact of their words.

Enhancing Communication Skills with Scripted Dialogues

The use of drama in the classroom enables students to concentrate on effective message delivery using voice, body language, and facial expressions. Burns stresses the importance of understanding the rationale behind characters’ dialogues to foster deeper insights into language use in social interactions. He notes that drama activities can address specific pragmatic themes such as making apologies and can facilitate discussions on the cultural underpinnings of conversations.

Empowering Students through Role-Play

Incorporating drama into language education empowers students to engage in meaningful interactions within appropriate contexts. By analysing scripts and engaging in role-plays, learners can critically examine language use’s pragmatics, including tone, polite refusals, and the dynamics of apologies and promises. This approach not only expands students’ linguistic capabilities but also boosts their confidence in navigating complex real-life communications.

Concluding Thoughts on Drama in Language Education

In conclusion, Burns asserts that drama transcends traditional language learning boundaries, providing a dynamic platform for mastering communication’s pragmatic aspects. He envisions the classroom as a laboratory for social interaction, where students can experiment, reflect, and refine their ability to communicate authentically and effectively in English. This methodological shift promises to equip learners with the practical skills necessary for nuanced, real-world interaction beyond the conventional focus on grammar and vocabulary.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. What are some strategies you can use to get someone to apologize to you? What elements have to be present for you to accept that someone’s apology is sincere?
  2. What are some situations in which it would be unexpected to be polite or formal?
  3. What’s one cultural rule about communicating in English-speaking countries that is very different from rules in your home country?

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